You can’t fall asleep at night and don’t understand why? Here is what you need to know.
You get in bed, toss and turn, and are bombarded by thoughts. You try to push them into some corner. But the more you try, the less successful you are. Sleep eludes you. You turn on the TV, pick up a book, and check messages on your phone. If you do manage to fall asleep, even the smallest noise wakes you up. A cat meowing in the street below, your upstairs neighbors dropping something on the floor…The sun rises once again, and you aren’t aware of it. You aren’t truly awake. Another morning, and you are far from feeling anything resembling “refreshed”.
We all know that stress and overloaded lifestyles damage the quality of our sleep. The combination of your responsibilities at home and at work have probably created a reality that doesn’t give you enough time for yourself – time to relax, time for exercise, time (or the desire) for sex. Everything that could help you fall asleep and enjoy continuous, restful sleep through the night.
But for women over age forty, the stress and obligations of modern life are not the primary reasons for insomnia.
So what are?
Whether you are married, divorced, a homemaker or a career woman, it is important for you to understand what is waking you up at night. It’s not your lifestyle that is ruining your sleep, but rather your body – or to be more exact, your hormones.
Sleep disturbances and hormonal changes
Around age forty the amount of estrogen excreted by the ovaries gradually decreases. Estrogen is the female sex hormone that affects, among other things, the sleep cycle. Aside from the direct affect estrogen has on the deteriorating quality of sleep, the decrease in the amounts of estrogen also affects the emotions, in the form of mood swings, depression, and hyper-sensitivity to environmental stress – which are all tied to sleep disturbances.
How many hours of sleep to you really need, and why?
The assumption that at age forty-five you need less sleep than at age twenty is wrong. At age forty-five, sleep is no less important for healthy physical and emotional functioning. Experts recommend getting between seven and a half and nine hours of sleep each night. Uninterrupted sleep improves concentration and memory, helps the body repair tissue damage that occurs throughout the day, and boosts the immune system.
Women who have sleep disturbances tend to suffer more from depression, mood swings, and concentration and memory problems. Long term sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even cancer.
But don’t get stressed about your insomnia, because the stress will make it even harder for you to sleep!
What to do during the day in order to sleep better at night – a few good tips:
In many cases you can improve the quality of your sleep if you make an effort. Sometimes it is enough to improve your sleeping environment, and choose healthier habits of diet and exercise during the day, in order to foster better sleeping patterns at night.
Your bedroom environment:
It’s important for the bedroom to be inviting, organized, and absent of anything distracting. Create conditions that are conducive to deep sleep, such as darkness, quiet, and a cool temperature – all of which transmit a calm atmosphere. Pamper yourself with attractive, pleasant sheets and blankets. Make sure your mattress and pillow are also comfortable.
Noise and light
As we get older we become more sensitive to noise and light, which can disturb our sleep. Move ticking, lighted clocks away from your bed. The light can wake you up and the ticking noise as each second passes will be a sure cause of insomnia. Ear plugs and/or a mask over your eyes can also help.
Only sleep and sex in bed
Don’t take your laptop or work to bed with you. Use your bed only for sleeping and having sex. That will cause your brain to associate your bed only with sleep and sex – and the combination of the two can lead to deep sleep.
If you can’t fall asleep, get out of bed and go to another room, so that your association with your bed will only be of sleep, and not of being awake.
Ritual and rhythm
Set aside time at the end of each day for your pre-sleep ritual, which will help you relax. Not everyone has time for a bath, and you can’t always do yoga or meditation by yourself. What is important is that you find something that relaxes you. Try dimming the lights, reading a book, lighting a candle, or lying on your back and taking deep breaths, in order to relax your body and soul.
Make sure to maintain a consistent, ordered sleep cycle. Try to get into bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning.
Forgo taking afternoon naps
Don’t doze during the day, even if it seems really tempting. Napping during the day can make it even harder to fall asleep at night. If you have no choice, make sure that you don’t nap for more than twenty minutes, and do so as early as possible in the day.
Eating right as night approaches
Before sleep, avoid eating anything spicy or heavy, or foods with a lot of sugar.
Avoid caffeine after 14:00, and not only from coffee. Certain types of tea, carbonated drinks, and chocolate contain caffeine.
Avoid alcohol after six o’clock. Even if you think that alcohol will put you to sleep, it in fact disrupts sleep.
The right kind of physical activity at the right time
Physical activity promotes deep sleep. But intensive exercise too close to night time can actually induce wakefulness. If that is the only time you have free, consult with a yoga teacher about the best positions to practice at night, to induce sleep.
Expose yourself to light during the day, but not at night
Spend at least two hours a day in sunlight. Sun increase the body’s levels of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep. Light at night, on the other hand, suppresses melatonin production in the body, and disrupts the sleep-awake cycle. Use a low light in your bedroom, and shut off all your screens – TV, cellphone, I-pod – for at least an hour before you go to sleep.
If the phenomenon persists, before you consider taking sleeping pills, it is recommended that you check with your doctor if there is any connection between your insomnia and some other problem. Using sleeping pills can be addictive and only make the problem worse in the long run. It may be that the phenomenon is due to hormonal imbalance, which can be remedied without taking actual hormones.